Thursday, September 21, 2017

Unlicensed tour operators in crosshairs

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is planning an imminent crackdown on Myanmar tour companies offering tours in foreign countries without a licence, a senior official says.

Director general U Tint Thwin, from the Hotels and Tourism Supervising Department, said tour operators working without a licence were violating the law and company officials could be fined or even imprisoned.

“They break the law if they are [selling tours] without an outbound licence so we can punish them by fining or imprisoning them according to existing tourism laws,” he said.

The ministry began issuing the licences in December 2015, following years of lobbying by the industry for a system to regulate the outbound market. Since then it has issued 133 licences.

U Tint Thwin said the department had given operators until March 31 to ensure their activities comply with the law.

“We will take action against all those outbound tour companies if they are reported to us [for violating the law]. We need law and order in tourism,” he said.

Registered companies must pay K400,000 a year for the licence. They also need a recommendation letter from the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA) to qualify.

To ensure companies are registering, UMTA chair U Thet Lwin Toh said that from April 1 advertisements in newspapers and journals foreign tours must be accompanied by the company’s licence number.

“Now we are educating and campaigning through the media to reach [the operators]. They will be punished according to the tourism law if they place an advertisement in a newspaper without mentioning their license number,” he said.

The licences are important because they help to protect the rights of customers, said U Sithu Myo Win, director of New Motion Travel and Tours.

“We have never had any big problems before, but it is safer for visitors to choose a legal tour company,” he said.

According to the ministry and the UMTA, customers who are dissatisfied with the quality of service or who receive a package different from what they paid for can submit a complaint and will be eligible for compensation.